Swimmers will make the biggest splash when the newest Evanston Athletic Hall of Fame class is inducted next weekend.
Swimmers Julia Quinn (Class of 2003) and Charles “Deed” Hardin (Class of 1954) and the Evanston boys swimming and diving team that won the Illinois High School Association state championship in 2005 head the list of individuals, teams and coaches that make up the HOF Class of 2019.
Also earning recognition will be football quarterback Marcus White (Class of 1995), basketball coach Jack Burmaster (1952-74), football coach Karl Plath (1950-57), boys volleyball standout Ray Gooden (Class of 1989) and the 2004 girls state champion track and field squad.
The Class of 2019 will be introduced at halftime of the high school season football opener Friday at Lazier Field, and they’ll also be recognized at Saturday’s Hall of Fame luncheon at ETHS.
The inductees were chosen by a committee that includes administrators, coaches, faculty and community representatives.
RAY GOODEN, CLASS OF 1989
Ray Gooden found his niche in the Evanston athletic program in a sport that was still growing in the late 1980s.
Now Gooden is a part of the most successful graduating class in school athletic history, joining seven other 1989 graduates as a member of the Hall of Fame. He was a pioneer in the sport of boys volleyball, leading the Wildkits to an unofficial state championship and earning Player of the Year recognition as a senior.
Now the successful women’s volleyball head coach at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Gooden will be remembered by fellow classmates as the guy with the good hands. His prowess as a 5-foot-7 inch senior setter sparked the Wildkits to a 31-1 record, including a victory over Downers Grove South in the finals of the season-ending tournament at Niles West that crowned the unofficial state champ.
Boys volleyball became an Illinois High School Association sanctioned sport in 1992.
“I was a goalie for the soccer team and even played some goalie for the water polo and lacrosse teams, so I guess I had good hands,” Gooden said. “I really worked a lot on my setting. At Evanston there was a guy named Tom Adamson a couple of years ahead of me and he was a helluva setter who I mirrored. I just tried to emulate the better players I saw.
“It’s crazy to know that so many of my peers (Michelle Russell, Juvon McGarry, Yonel Jourdain, Shannyn Gillespie, Janis Foster, Tyrone Bell, Franz Calixte) are in the Hall of Fame, too. I started out in an after school program when I was at Nichols Middle School, and then when I got to ETHS I connected with some guys who were playing for the club team. We went to tournaments all over the place and I really embraced it. It was so much fun!”
Gooden earned a spot on the varsity soccer squad at the end of his sophomore year and started as a junior and a senior. But volleyball was in his blood and it turned into a lifelong passion for Gooden, who has coached in both men’s and women’s programs at Thomas Moore — where he was the youngest head coach in the country in 1994 —, Northwestern, Lewis and Loyola, where as an assistant coach he was part of a Ramblers’ women’s program that twice qualified for the NCAA Tournament.
He landed the head women’s job at NIU in 2002.
“I was actually a middle hitter when I first started playing, but my club coach (Gene Jeefe) was a setter and I worked a lot with him,” Gooden recalled. “Volleyball was still an emerging sport then. Our club team (Evanston Juniors) played against other high schools, against adult teams, and we played all over the country.
“We played in Canada, we played in Pennsylvania, we played in New Mexico, we’d play at UIC all day against adult teams. We’d find games at the Broadway Armory, at New Trier, at Schiller Park. We’d just go play. It never felt like work.
“There were pockets of good players in Illinois then. So many schools were just beginning their programs, and we were a little more advanced at that point than they were,” he said. “We didn’t realize we were helping our sport grow.
“Our biggest rival in high school was Downers South. Our senior year we played them at the Downers tourney and lost to them, but we got back at them at the end of the year. There was no regional, sectional or super-sectional like there is now, but the best teams all came to Niles West and we knew it was a big deal to win it. We had some really good players and Evanston won it the next year, too.”
Gooden played three years at Ohio State University, where he was all-Big Ten and the MVP of his club team, then moved into the coaching ranks. He’s the winningest coach in NIU’s volleyball history, architect of more than 300 wins, and his resume includes being named Mid-American Coach of the Year 5 times, 3 MAC championships and 2 NCAA Tournament appearances.
He has also worked extensively with the USA volleyball program, training and developing talent, and has served as a volleyball analyst for the Big Ten television network.
“Getting hired at Northern Illinois was really a watershed moment for me,” Gooden said. “Getting to work with young players and the teaching part of it has been the most beneficial for me. For me, it’s all about teaching and seeing kids succeed and grow.”
CHARLES DEED HARDIN, CLASS OF 1954
Smooth. That’s the best way to describe Charles “Deed” Hardin, the Michael Phelps of high school swimming in a star-studded lineup for Evanston’s powerhouse swim teams in the 1950s, both in and out of the pool.
Hardin broke the state record in a new event — the 150-yard individual medley — not once, not twice but THREE times during his Wildkit career and twice earned gold medals at the Illinois High School Association state finals.
He was also part of a championship 200-yard freestyle relay team in 1953, teaming up with Leddie Lederer and two other Hall of Famers — Dick Hanley and Tom Alderson — to rule that event.
“I remember him as a quiet, good-looking guy who was really smooth,” said ex-teammate Ken MacGillivray, ETHS Class of 1955. “He really had a very elegant stroke with no extra motion and he hardly made a splash when he was in the water. He had a cool demeanor about him and he was just very, very smooth.
“He was the most gentlemanly guy I knew. He wasn’t the fastest freestyler, but he was very good at the breaststroke.”
Hardin began to make a splash for legendary head coach Dobbie Burton as a sophomore, when he was edged out by a margin of 1:40.1 to 1:42.7 by Al Rubenstein of New Trier at the IHSA finals. Both swimmers broke the previous record of 1:42.7 by Ed Kirk of Chicago DuSable, set the previous year.
The event was added to the high school lineup in 1949 to reduce some of the emphasis on freestyle races and consisted of a freestyle leg, a backstroke leg and a breaststroke leg. The butterfly was added in 1960 and the race was extended to 200 yards.
Hardin lowered his time to 1:36.6 as a junior, another state record, and he claimed the state title that season. He knocked more time off — down to 1:35.9 — on his way to the crown as a senior in 1954.
Hardin continued his swim career for powerhouse Yale teams, helping them earn runnerup NCAA finishes in 1956, 1957 and 1958. He won the 200 breaststroke championship at the prestigious EISL Invitational in 1957.
At the NCAA finals, Hardin claimed 5th place in the 200 IM with a time of 2:15.8; took 6th in the same event in 1958 in 2:16 flat; and also earned All-American honors in the IM in 1958.
JULIA QUINN, CLASS OF 2003
Julia Quinn’s selection to the Evanston Hall of Fame should be celebrated by late-bloomers everywhere.
Quinn’s drive and determination to improve on a daily basis produced results in her final year of competition that included school records in two events and an Illinois High School Association state championship in the 100-yard breaststroke event.
Quinn is only the fourth female swimmer to earn induction into the Athletic Hall of Fame, joing Heidi Toft (2003), Michelle Russell (1998) and Stacy Cassiday (1995).
Quinn was a four-time state qualifier in high school. But her swim resume featured more success during the club season, when she competed in long course and longer races (like the 200 breaststroke) more suited to her training and racing style.
It all came together for Quinn during the 2002 swim season. That’s when she and teammate Kacy Reams finished 1-2 at the state finals, with Quinn edging Reams by a margin of 1 minute, 05.06 seconds to 1:05.43 for the gold medal. That effort marked just the fifth time in the history of the state finals that two teammates placed first and second in the same event.
Effort was what pushed Quinn to the top. In a sport where the daily grind is the only way to reach an elite level of performance, Quinn stood out in the mind of long-time Evanston boys and girls coach Kevin Auger.
“She certainly did bloom as she got older,” Auger said. “She progressed, and she got better every year, and that was because she demanded excellence from herself and from her teammates. She’d see what needed to be done, and she did it.
“I don’t know of anyone willing to put in the work and who wanted to succeed more than Julia did. She gave a lot of effort year to year, month to month, day to day. She didn’t take any time off, she just kept pushing. She was a model of determination for us. She would almost get mad at me if I didn’t give her more to do in practice. She was a very serious swimmer.”
“To be honest, I’d rather be a late bloomer. It was like being part of a puzzle you had to fill in,” said Quinn, now a civil rights attorney based in Washington, D.C. “I think part of my success came because naturally, I’m a very competitive person in almost everything I do. It’s part of my personality. I loved swimming, and I love to compete, and I wanted to put myself in the best position to win.
“I have such fond memories of ETHS, training there year round and being able to win State my last year. I’m very surprised to make the Hall of Fame because there have been so many great swimmers at Evanston.”
The status of both Quinn and Reams as state contenders wasn’t in doubt after the duo placed 4-5 the previous year at State. Reams actually edged out her older teammate by 15-hundredths of a second.
With two state title threats training next to each other every day in the pool, Auger decided to take a unique approach to bring out the best in both individuals. “After Julia’s sophomore year we thought we had the best breaststroke team in the state, but Julia was upset because she didn’t make the finals that year and Kacy did,” Auger said. “So we just drilled it into their heads that they were a team, and they became very good friends and really depended on each other. They had to understand they weren’t rivals, just competitors, and that means striving with someone who will make you better.”
“Kacy was such an efferverscent person — she was a lot of fun to be around — and I think we pushed each other to be better,” Quinn agreed. “I think the competition was healthy and we really embraced that team dynamic.”
Reams actually established the school record in the breaststroke during the regular season and both swimmers faced a daunting challenge when it was time for the IHSA state finals. Defending state champion Jeana Fucillo of Belleville Althoff, who didn’t compete during the high school regular season while focusing on club, was the odds-on favorite to repeat in the breaststroke. And the luck of the draw for the preliminaries placed Quinn in the lane next to Fucillo in a qualifying heat.
Quinn blazed her way to a school record time of 1:04.61 and not only beat Fucillo, but helped knock the Althoff swimmer out of the finals completely. That left the spotlight to the Evanston “team.”
“I don’t remember what I was seeded going into the weekend, but to be frank, I was not sure going in that I could beat Jeana because she was so good,” said Quinn. “But I swam a good breastroke leg in the individual medley (where she eventually finished 6th) and that gave me an indication that I’d hit my taper. To beat her and to be able to break the school record in my home pool was really thrilling. To beat her and go 1:04 at the same time, that’s when it really sunk in that wow, I really have a chance to do this!”
Quinn came back on Saturday and contributed a backstroke leg for the state runnerup 200 medley relay team, took 6th in the IM and also swam the anchor leg for the 10th place 400 freestyle relay team.
“Julia really threw down on Friday,” praised Auger. “And having the two of them swimming in their home pool really helped, too. It wasn’t a surprised after that that Julia won. I knew she’d have the determination at the end, it was just a matter of whether Kacy could get out so fast that Julia couldn’t catch her.”
Besides earning All-American recognition as a junior and senior, Quinn was team captain and team MVP at ETHS as a senior. She swam collegiately at the University of Minnesota as a freshman and sophomore, and was Minnesota’s lone representative (in the 100 breaststroke) at the 2005 NCAA Championships. As a sophomore she was named an Outstanding Student-Athlete at Minnesota, maintaining a grade-point average above 3.5, and finished 4th in the 200 breaststroke at the Big Ten Championships.
Quinn transferred to Notre Dame for the final two years of her career, highlighted by Big East titles in the 200 breaststroke as a junior and both the 100 and 200 breaststroke as a senior. She also earned all-conference recognition as a member of the 200 and 400 medley relay teams, qualified for the NCAA finals in three events, and was named the co-Rockne Student-Athlete Award winner at the university.
MARCUS WHITE, CLASS OF 1995
Marcus White grew up in a football family and played almost every position — running back, tight end, cornerback, safety, defensive end — before he entered the Evanston Township High School program.
But once he settled on a position at ETHS, White set the bar for a standard of excellence as a playmaker at the quarterback spot for the Wildkits. As a senior in the 1994-95 school year, he led the Wildkits to their best postseason finish in an 11-win season that ended in the Illinois High School Association Class 6A state semifinals.
White established single season school records (since broken) for touchdown passes (22) and passing yards (1,982) and delivered in dramatic fashion again and again while leading the Kits to an overall record of 11-2. ETHS reeled off 10 straight victories behind their dual threat signal-caller, who also finished as the team’s second leading rusher with 591 yards on 96 carries, including 5 touchdown runs.
He was a unanimous All-State selection by the Champaign News-Gazette, Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Tribune and the Illinois High School Football Coaches Association, the only Evanston QB to earn all of those honors in a single year.
White’s ability to produce in the clutch helped lift a senior class that went only 4-4 as freshmen and 5-4 as sophomores to unexpected heights by the time they were seniors. No Evanston team has put together a deeper postseason run in the history of the IHSA playoffs, and the 1994 squad finished unbeaten in Central Suburban League South division play, earning the league title for the 6th time in 7 years.
“My Dad (Sam) was our coach when we were sophomores and I remember him telling me if you guys stay together, you have a chance to do something real special,” White recalled. “He hit the nail right on the head as he usually did when it came to football. The core group of guys stayed together, and once we got on a roll that year, we just refused to lose. We were really a tight-knit group and we were always together.
“I’m definitely excited and pleased to make it to the Hall of Fame. The biggest thing about it for me is that it makes my Dad proud. He put in a lot of work with me, with all of those years play Pop Warner and all the camps he took me to.”
Football was always a family affair for White, who began playing for the High Ridge Chargers when he was in kindergarten. “All my uncles and cousins played at Evanston and they were a big influence on me, especially that 1989 team. Growing up like that, you always wanted to compete and be the best,” he said.
“I started out as a running back and tight end, switched to quarterback, went back to running back and I also played cornerback, safety and defensive end. But what’s not to like about playing quarterback? I always figured if it goes through me, then everything will be OK for our team. I just liked having the ball in my hands.”
As a sophomore, White earned a promotion to the varsity at the end of the season as a backup, then split time with Bill Maday at quarterback as a junior as the Kits finished 8-2 and lost to Loyola Academy in the first round of the state playoffs. He was also selected all-conference, mostly for his work at free safety.
White’s progress over the summer, working with teammates like Adam Franklin, Wes Crane, Phil Taylor and Barry Ross, prompted head coach John Riehle to put the ball in his talented playmaker’s hands even though Riehle always favored the running game over the passing game during his own HOF tenure at Evanston.
White changed all of that, launching 202 passes as a senior, a total number that was close to the past two seasons COMBINED for a Riehle-coached squad. He completed 59 percent of those throws and was only intercepted 6 times.
“It all came together for us as seniors,” White said. “Our camaraderie was big for us. That summer we did a lot of things together. We’d get together and play catch even when we didn’t have a passing league game, and we always did well in the passing leagues (7-on-7 summer competitions), too.
“There were some changes in the coaching staff that year and they opened up the offense. We had Cecil Martin the year before, so we were a run-heavy offense, but the coaches knew that we had some different weapons, 3 or 4 good wide receivers when we usually just had 1 or 2. And I think by senior year the coaches had faith in me, that I knew what I was doing back there.”
After opening the 1994 campaign with an impressive 36-14 trouncing of Oak Park-River Forest, the Wildkits stumbled in Week 2 and were upset by Maine West 14-7. They didn’t lose again until they bowed to Homewood-Flossmoor 42-15 in the state semifinals.
Along the way, ETHS scored nail-biting wins over Glenbrook South (22-21 in overtime), Waukegan (20-14), New Trier (33-31) and edged Waubonsie Valley 21-20 in overtime in the third round of the 6A playoffs.
Quarterback White was a central figure in all of those wins. He threw the game-winning touchdown and PAT passes to Franklin and Ross, respectively, against GBS, hit Ross with a 3-yard scoring pass with 7 seconds left to snatch a win in the rain at Waukegan, and engineered a 75-yard, 9-play scoring drive that culminated with a 24-yard TD pass to Taylor with 1:33 left as the Kits rallied from an early 21-0 deficit against arch-rival New Trier.
Riehle couldn’t praise his senior QB enough in the wake of the emotional win over Glenbrook South. “There was no doubt that we were going for two points in the overtime,” said the ETHS head coach. “We put the ballgame in the hands of our best man, and that’s Marcus White. He’s the toughest quarterback in the country. We wouldn’t trade him for any other high school quarterback in America.”
Against the Trevians, White completed 16-of-20 passes for 253 yards and 3 TDs, the best performance of his quarterback career. “We got down 21-0 and I was really befuddled. I couldn’t believe it was happening, but then we got our bearings and pulled it out,” he said. “We did have some nail-biters that year. For me, I liked the fact that everything fell on me (to perform in the clutch). I really embraced the leadership aspect of it.”
White’s leadership and passing ability produced a single game school record of four TDs — in the first half — of a 27-18 road playoff win at Marist, prompting losing coach Pat Nudera to join White’s fan club. “Marcus White is a good quarterback, probably the best we’ve seen,” said the Marist mentor. “When you’ve got an arm that can put the ball on the money like that, it’s like an accident waiting to happen. Our pass defense has been pretty good this year, but he just caught us again and again.”
White earned a full scholarship ride to the University of Wisconsin, but never played quarterback for the Badgers. As a redshirt freshman, he suffered a broken ankle working as a scout team receiver in practice. He gained weight during that period of inactivity, enough so the Wisconsin staff decided to switch him to outside linebacker.
Another change in positions — he played 4 different positions in 5 years of college — prompted White to transfer to Illinois State University, where he started as a junior and senior at linebacker and defensive end. He was named to the “all-newcomer” team in the Missouri Valley Conference his first year and finished third on the team in tackles as a senior.
JACK BURMASTER, BASKETBALL COACH 1952-74
Jack Burmaster helped put Evanston’s basketball program on the map long before the Wildkits captured their only Illinois High School Association state championship back in 1968.
Burmaster led ETHS to its first state tournament appearance in 1957 and added 3 more Sweet 16 appearances in a career that spanned 22 years and featured a won-loss record of 312-184, a winning percentage of .629. A highly-regarded tactician at both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor, he also served as Evanston’s athletic director from 1975 to 1985.
At Evanston, Burmaster guided the Wildkits to the state quarterfinals in 1957, 1964 and 1972 and won it all in 1968 with one of the best teams in Illinois history. His resume includes a pair of Suburban League championships and 9 regional titles.
He was voted national “Coach of the Year” in 1968, when Evanston went 30-1 and dominated the IHSA state finals.
“Jack Burmaster was the best bench coach I have ever seen,” said Dan Peterson, who was inducted into the ETHS Hall of Fame in 2013. “He was an absolute master of knowing when to call a timeout, always to break the other team’s rhythm or hot streak. He was also a master teacher, able to combine fundamental drills into offensive breakdowns.
“You have to understand that Evanston was not a dominating team in the Suburban League when Burmaster took over in 1952. Many felt old-time coach Rocky Hampton had stayed on the job way too long, playing 1920s basketball in the 1950s. Burmaster changed all that, bringing in the Kentucky system, pro-style knee socks and the “wheel” layup drills before games. He revolutionalized basketball at ETHS.”
Evanston’s 1968 state champions are still regarded as one of the best teams in state history and Burmaster’s focus on fundamentals is one reason the Wildkits reached elite status that season and played to the maximum of their potential.
“I’d pick up the pressure full court (on defense) and we were able to pressure teams the whole game,” recalled Walt Perrin, a starting guard for the champs. “Most teams at that time weren’t doing that, except for teams in the city of Chicago.”
“Jack really emphasized that pressure,” added former guard Alton Hill. “Sometimes other teams would get ahead and they’d let up, but his philosophy was to start strong and end strong. We never let up. That gave us an edge because most teams weren’t ready for that.
“We also practiced offensive and defensive rebounding every day in practice, not just for 4 or 5 minutes, but for 15 or 25 minutes. He’d throw the ball up and you had to block out and get it. He created a great structure for us as a team, and made us believe in ourselves and the system he created.”
Burmaster was a winner right from the start of his own playing career at Elgin High School, reaching the Final Four in both 1943 and 1944 for the Maroons. He was then a member of the legendary “Whiz Kids” unit at the University of Illinois, where he averaged 7.8 points per game, was twice named second team all-Big Ten and honorable mention All-American, and was the team’s Most Valuable Player in the 1947-48 season.
He played professional basketball for three seasons in Wisconsin — at Oshkosh and Sheboygan — and then shifted his focus to coaching when his playing career ended. In his first season coaching at the high school level, Burmaster led DuPont Manual of Louisville to the finals of the Kentucky state tournament, losing in the state championship game.
He relocated to Evanston at age 25 and the Wildkits went on to post winning records in 16 of the 22 seasons he led the program.
Burmaster was also known for his role as an analyst for television broadcasts of the state tournament. He was inducted into the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1973, a member of that organization’s inaugural class.
Burmaster, who passed away in 2005, was also voted one of the “100 Legends of the IHSA Boys Basketball Tournament” when the state celebrated the 100th anniversary of the state tourney in 2006.
KARL PLATH, FOOTBALL COACH 1950-57
Notre Dame’s loss was Evanston’s gain back in 1954.
When there was a vacancy for the head football position in South Bend that year, the candidates quickly narrowed down to a couple of high school coaches — Karl Plath of Evanston and Terry Brennan.
The Irish chose Brennan — a successful mentor at Mount Carmel in Chicago — and the rest is history. Plath led ETHS to a pair of mythical state championships and a sizzling overall won-loss record of 44-9-3 at Evanston, a winning percentage of .830.
Plath was an outstanding quarterback at Elgin High School and also captained the 1944 Elgin basketball team that placed state runnerup at the Illinois High School Association tournament along with another 2019 HOF inductee, the late Jack Burmaster. He played four years at Marquette University, graduating in 1948.
Plath succeeded Bob Reihsen as a 23-year-old after two years as an assistant coach at Evanston. Plath guided the Wildkits to a 7-1 record in 1950, with the only loss coming 14-12 in a driving rain at Proviso.
Evanston won all 8 games in 1951, captured the Suburban League championship and was ranked No. 1 at the end of the season by the Chicago Sun-Times. Plath’s teams went 4-2-1 in head-to-head matchups with New Trier, but one of those losses marred what would have been a perfect 1952 campaign. A 27-14 loss in Winnetka forced the Kits to settle for a 7-1 record.
With All-State quarterback Jim Van Pelt sidelined for four games with a neck injury, ETHS stumbled to a 3-4-1 overall record in the 1953 season but bounced back to go 6-2 in 1954 with a squad made up mostly of juniors.
The Kits claimed back-to-back Suburban League titles in 1955 and 1956 and went a combined 13-1-2 over Plath’s last two seasons at the helm. He established a reputation as a brilliant play-caller even though Evanston used both a spread offense and the Split-T formation during his short tenure.
Plath retired from coaching at age 30 and eventually served as superintendent at Highland Park High School. He was inducted into the Elgin Sports Hall of Fame in 1993.
2004 GIRLS TRACK AND FIELD TEAM
No one who has ever competed for him in the Evanston girls track program would suggest that head coach Fenny Gunter is a man of few words.
But the shortest speech of the veteran coach’s career helped produce an Illinois High School Association state championship in 2004 and decided the closest team race in the history of the event.
Tied with rival Morgan Park in the Class AA team standings following a 3-4 finish by Shalina Clarke and Traciann Henry in the 200-meter dash, Gunter approached the tent where the members of the ETHS 1600 relay team were waiting for the final event.
Sophomores Demeca Hill, Jonkea Butler-Stewart and Morgan Pointer and junior Lauryn Nwankpa drew close to listen to their coach’s advice prior to the biggest race of their young careers.
“It was the only time in the history of the state meet there was a tie going into the last event,” Gunter said. “I went over to them in the tent and I just said if you beat Morgan Park, we win the state championship. If you don’t, you lose.
“Then I walked away. They knew the situation, and they responded.”
The foursome nailed down a 76-72 triumph over Morgan Park with a fourth place finish to an eighth place effort by the Mustangs and brought the big trophy back to Evanston.
With the pressure turned up high, Hill, Butler-Stewart, Pointer and Nwankpa turned in a season best time of 3 minutes, 56.81 seconds to whip Morgan Park by almost 5 seconds.
The 2004 squad featured future Evanston Hall of Famers Clarke and Henry, but most of the other squad members were competing at their first state finals on the blue oval at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston. Overall it was the youngest squad of the 7 that have earned state crowns under Gunter’s leadership.
“What I remember about that year was the way they all held each other accountable, and it was such a good team effort,” Gunter recalled. “Collectively, they believed in each other and they made the most of those moments.
“Riana Lynn came up big for us in the field events — she set the tone — and that mile relay really stepped up for us at the end.”
The Wildkits had to make every point count even though they were the team favorites coming into the final weekend of the season. But when Clarke failed to qualify in both the long jump and the 100 hurdles, the team dinner following Friday’s preliminaries was no picnic.
This time Gunter didn’t even have to make a speech.
“We sat down to eat and everyone looked pretty glum,” he said. “I wasn’t sure what I was going to say to them. That’s when Ms. Hill (an outspoken sophomore at the time) said everything that needed to be said. She made sure that Shalina understood that she hadn’t done her job and needed to do better on Saturday. She addressed the issue and I thought it was a good thing that they held each other accountable as teammates.
“It did hurt us when Shalina didn’t make it in those two events — that was the first year we had her run the short hurdles — but we were still good. They found out that night that there’s more to a team than one individual.”
The Wildkits rose to the occasion on Saturday. Clarke won her second straight 300 hurdles title in another state record time, 41.56, while Henry paced both the 400 and 800 relay teams to gold medal performances while also earning runnerup honors in the open 100 in 11.73.
The Kits also counted a 2nd from Lynn in the discus (141 feet, 10 inches) and a 7th in the shot put from the unheralded senior, who had tried to crack the ETHS lineup as a sprinter earlier in her career but couldn’t make an impact as a runner.
More field event points came from Butler-Stewart (8th in the long jump) and Arielle McAlpin placed 10th in the triple jump, keeping the champs In contention right up to the end.
“We were a young team, and a lot of them learned from watching us at State (as freshmen) the year before,” Gunter pointed out. “But back when they were in 6th, 7th and 8th grade we’d take a small core of girls to compete against older girls (in the summer) and they weren’t intimidated. They were very confident. They had trained and raced competitively against elite runners in out-of-state meets we went to, and they weren’t overwhelmed when they got to State.
“I remember there was a lot of pressure on Traciann. That was her fourth straight year running the 2 races (100 and 200) at State and not many have done that. She ran so hard on those relays that she was really out of gas at the end.
“That was a pretty well-rounded team and that year the field events really helped us. Riana Lynn was such a hard-working young girl and I thought she was the hero for us. She got us off to a good start, and then everyone did their jobs.”
2005 BOYS SWIMMING AND DIVING TEAM
Evanston’s boys swim team dropped a depth charge on the state of Illinois in the winter of 2005 that just swamped the competition.
No state champion before — or since — has displayed that kind of depth that earned ETHS its 7th state crown in school history.
Coach Kevin Auger’s team scored state final points in every even but one — the 100-yard breaststroke — and outscored runnerup Naperville Central by 30 points on their way to their second title in five years.
The 2001 Evanston state champs won their title with three superstars in the lineup in Terry Silkaitis, Blake Wallace and Sean McCafffrey accounting for almost all of their team points. That team, which was enshrined in the Evanston Hall of Fame in 2013, was awarded the mythical national championship by the National Interscholastic Swim Coaches Association.
So which state power would have won a dual meet in a head-to-head matchup, the 2001 group or the 2005 squad?
Auger has no doubts.
“I’ve never sat down and scored that meet, but it definitely wouldn’t have ended well for the 2001 team,” said the ETHS head coach. “We were good top to bottom in 2005 even though the 2001 team was better at an elite level. The 2005 team would have won a straight-up dual meet, for sure, with 2 or 3 entries per team.
“That 2005 team was the deepest we’ve ever had. We had to leave a guy behind (state rules allow only 2 entries in each individual event) in Charlie Baldwin in the backstroke because he was only our 3rd best in that event, but he finished 3rd in the club state meet.”
What the 2005 team accomplished was, on some level, unmatched even by some of the powerhouse Evanston teams coached by Dobbie Burton in the 1950s. In those days there were only a handful of challengers to compete with the Wildkits for state places, while currently usually between 40 and 50 schools per year score points at the IHSA state finals as the sport has grown in all areas of the state.
Evanston’s task became easier — and more difficult at the same time — when Doug Lennox transferred in from Lake Forest. Lennox decided to join club buddy Jacob Johnson at ETHS for his senior year and that move clearly put the Kits over the top.
“In 2001 no one but me thought we were going to win State at the start of the year,” Auger recalled. “But in 2005 the target was on our backs all year. The pressure was really on the kids from Day 1, and to them anything less than winning a state championship would have been a disappointment.
“Doug Lennox got to the point where he wanted to come back (after competing only in the club season as a junior) to high school swimming, but he didn’t want to swim for Lake Forest anymore. It was a second chance for him to be a part of a team again, and it turned out to be a pretty good fit. I thought we probably would have won without him, but he was really a leader for us with his effort and the workouts he put in.”
Lennox captured the state 100-yard butterfly title in 49.59, edging out pre-race favorite Casey Dauw of St. Charles East (49.81) and also set a school record in the 200 individual medley on his way to a third place finish. That was the only individual first place for the Kits at the meet, but the team’s dominant performance also featured relay victories in the 200 freestyle (Lennox, Tim Silkaitis, Alex Negronida, Johnson) and 400 freestyle (Lennox, Dmitri Kouzmine, Silkaitis, Johnson) races.
The 200 medley relay unit of freshman Ben McBratney, Silkaitis, Kouzmine and Negronida added a 4th place effort in a school record time of 1:37.06.
Johnson’s anchor leg of 45.80 in the final race of the day capped an outstanding career for the senior. He settled for runnerup finishes in the 200 freestyle (1:40.35) and 500 freestyle (school record 4:37.16) and the fact that he graduated without winning an individual state crown didn’t take away from what the Wildkits accomplished as a team.
“I can’t imagine anything sweeter than this,” Johnson said. “I’m fighting back the tears right now. I’m so proud of our guys. Everyone really stepped up and took it to the next level today. We had seven or eight people contributing today, and that’s twice as many as we had in 2001.”
Individual point scorers for ETHS included Kouzmine, fourth in the 100 butterfly and seventh in the 100 backstroke in a school record 52.82; Silkaitis, ninth in the backstroke; Negronida, ninth in the 50 freestyle and 11th in the 100 freestyle; and diver Yarden Fraiman, fifth with 392.30 points.
Another Wildkit performer, Andrew Olsen, posted the 22nd fastest time in the 500 freestyle but didn’t reach the championship or consolation finals on Saturday.